The Kings still have frontcourt size when All-Star DeMarcus Cousins is not in the lineup.
What the Kings lack is the ability to outmuscle opponents on defense, coach George Karl said.
Cousins sat out Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves because of a bruised right knee from Monday’s loss at Chicago.
The Kings’ offense suffers without the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer at 27.1 points per game, but their struggles on defense are particularly amplified without Cousins.
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“The paint presence,” Karl said. “We’re not a great paint-presence team, but we’re usually pretty decent there.
“And very seldom are we going to be physical,” Karl continued, when playing Willie Cauley-Stein with Quincy Acy or Kosta Koufos. “We’ll have size, but we won’t have that physical presence.”
Cousins has been criticized for not getting downcourt fast enough on defense, but statistically he remains one of the team’s better defenders.
Cousins is one of two Kings regulars who have a negative percentage points differential, which measures what an opponent shoots during the season relative to when guarded by a particular player. Cousins has a minus-0.9 percentage points differential. Rudy Gay’s minus-1.1 is best among Kings regulars.
Karl said he would have liked that physical presence against Minnesota’s standout rookie, Karl-Anthony Towns.
“There’s just a bigger physical presence,” Karl said. “And even though Towns isn’t in the paint all the time, definitively you’ve got to keep him away from the basket.”
Mature rookie – Towns is the frontrunner to win Rookie of the Year.
He leads rookies in averaging 18.0 points and 10.3 rebounds and 41 double doubles. Even though he spent one season at Kentucky, Towns doesn’t play as if he’s lacking experience.
“He doesn’t look like a 20-year-old to me,” Karl said. “He has a sense for the game of basketball, as does (Cauley-Stein). I’ve been impressed with Willie Cauley-Stein. They have a little bit of sense to the game of basketball. Most young players have to learn through the process of pro ball.”
Towns and Cauley-Stein were Kentucky teammates last season.
More minutes – Karl said he plans to play Cauley-Stein more without Cousins.
Cauley-Stein played just five minutes Monday after missing two games because of flu-like symptoms. He played 21 minutes Wednesday.
Karl said he wasn’t sure how much Cauley-Stein could play because he did not believe the rookie was 100 percent after being sick.
Koufos started at center in place of Cousins.